A lot of people on online forums and personally ask question about where to book flight tickets from. Whether they should book flight via travel agent or directly. Especially, for international flights. While it is a good idea to check prices online and with travel agent, it is not always feasible. Hence, I have written below about when it is a good idea to check flights via travel agent.
When is it a good idea to check with travel agent?
1. Where are you travelling to?
If you are travelling from India to South East Asia (like Thailand) or Dubai, then it is a good idea to check flight rates with travel agent. Reason being, a lot of Indians travel more to these destinations. Hence, travel agents buy inventory in advance for these sectors.
2. When are your travel dates?
This is in continuation with the above point. If your travel dates are in near-term (a month or so), then do check with travel agents. Considering the agents have bought the inventory and if it is unsold for recent future, chances are they would be willing to sell it off at a cheaper rate.
3. Are you flexible with your travel dates and arrangements?
Considering travel agents might have inventory for specific dates, you need to be flexible. Also, sometimes the agents might not be selling only the air tickets but the entire package (flights + hotels + other arrangements). And you might end up getting a cheap deal. Of course, the flip side is that it won’t be completely customisable to your needs.
In which cases travel agents might not offer the best deal?
1. If you are travelling to off-beat destinations
If your travel is to off-beat places where not many tourists from your country go to like Croatia or Alaska, then chances are you should book yourself to get a better deal. Reason being, that travel agent would most likely not have inventory for these destinations. And he/she will be making custom bookings for you. In the end, agent would be using similar sources which you yourself can easily find in this day and age. Unless, you don’t have time and don’t mind paying a 15-20% premium, stay away from agents.
2. If you have frequent flyer miles that can be used
This is pretty straightforward. If you have miles to be used then you cannot get discounted airfares. And you would be better off booking the flight directly from the airline website.
Since past 6 months, I have noticed that for international flights a lot of times it is cheaper to book directly via airlines. Much cheaper than any OTA like MakeMyTrip or Yatra. These OTAs have deals and offers running like Rs. 5000 cashback to card etc. However, what I noticed is the prices were jacked up by Rs. 5000 on the ticket amount. So, there was no difference if you purchased the flight directly from airlines, especially international air tickets.
This is my viewpoint on where to book flight tickets, via travel agent or directly. Do let me know if you think there are better ways to do the same, in comments section below.